Craving for a dreamy getaway in French Polynesia? The Tuamotu Islands have got you covered. With their picturesque beaches, fascinating local customs, and tranquil waters, your vacation here will be one that you will remember forever.
French Polynesia is an overseas collectivity of France and its only overseas country. In total, it includes 118 islands and atolls in the South Pacific Ocean, spanning over 4167 kilometers square. These 118 islands are split into 5 groups or archipelagos, one of them being the Tuamotus covering 78 islands.
The Tuamotu archipelago is the largest chain of atolls in the world. Spread over 850 square kilometers, this group consists of 78 majestic islands. With so many islands to choose between, it’s no wonder that the average tourist gets overwhelmed when considering Tuamotu Islands to visit.
Sounds relatable? Follow us through this guide as we talk about 15 of the dreamiest Tuamotu Islands that you just can’t miss!
We start off this list with Rangiroa – a massive natural aquarium that will leave you mesmerized. The largest atoll of the Tuamotu Islands is spread over 1446 square kilometers and inhabited by 2567 lucky people. A part of the Palliser group of the Tuamotu, it lies about 355 km northeast of Tahiti.
Fortunately, this gorgeous atoll is very accessible to travelers from everywhere. Not only does Air Tahiti have regular flights to Rangiroa, but you can also visit it by booking the famous Aranui 5 Cruises.
And so, it is fair to assume that it gets a lot of tourist traffic, especially during the season.
Rangiroa has some of the most gorgeous beaches in all of Tuamotu. If you are a marine life enthusiast, then visiting this little piece of heaven should be on the top of your list. In addition to being a huge marine observatory, it is also a great place to go scuba diving.
Because the island is so popular and accessible, accommodation and food can get a little expensive here. However, the beauty of this atoll largely makes up for the high price point and makes it worth your money and time.
Tikehau, Tuamotuan for “peaceful landing”, is exactly that. Only 12 km southwest of Rangiroa, it is pretty easy to get to once you have reached Rangiroa. You can also take a direct flight by Air Tahiti and get off at the Tikehau airport itself.
Tikehau Island is an expanse of 461 square kilometers, with 529 inhabitants. So close to Rangiroa yet so far from its cacophony, Tikehau is a tranquil little island you can relax at when looking to escape the city life.
The island is moderately priced and has tons to offer. Lounge around at the peaceful shores or go birdwatching during your stay here. Diving and snorkeling are also some fun things to do at Tikehau. And if you are looking to get pampered, the island has a luxury resort to give you a VIP treatment.
Next up, we have Fakurava – a protected coral atoll and the second largest of the Tuamotu Islands. At a distance of 14 km from Toau, it is home to 837 people and some majestic flora and fauna. The regular Air Tahiti flights and the Aranui 5 cruise make Fakarava an accessible destination.
This island, too, is great for scuba diving and snorkeling. It has two passes leading to the gorgeous lagoon that you can enjoy – the northern Garuae Pass and the southern Tumakohua Pass. Beware of the majestic sharks when playing in these waters, though!
Despite being the second-largest island among the Tuamotu group, Fakarava lies undiscovered by most tourists that head to the Tuamotu archipelago. The low tourist traffic makes this an affordable destination if you are on a budget, and the attractions it holds are well worth your trip! So it should be on your list of Tuamotu Islands to visit.
Ahe lies between the islands of Rangiroa and Manihi. It is a delightful little place that is yet to be discovered by the mainstream tourist and attracts only the native Tahitians as of now. With a population of 552 and spread over 138 square kilometers, the quiet little haven is the perfect getaway from the hustle and bustle of your life.
Ahe’s crystal clear waters and white sand beaches are an attraction for many newlyweds. Go here for romantic afternoon picnics by the beach and to be amazed by the vibrant coral reefs and spectacular marine life. You can also book some kayaking, snorkeling, or paddleboarding activities when in Ahe.
While Air Tahiti does have regular flights to Ahe, people usually get around to nearby islands via boating. In terms of expenses, the island is not too pricey. There are numerous guest houses owned by the locals that you can rent for a good price during your stay.
Arutua, also known as Nagaru-atua, is a unique group of islets arranged in a ring shape with one islet in the center. Together, the motu comprise 50 square kilometers. The 650 residents of this island earn a living via fishing, pearl farming, or copra farming.
The Arutua islets are located about 40 km to the southwest of Rangiroa. They can easily be reached by the regular Air Tahiti flights here. Nevertheless, we do not see a lot of travelers heading this way and the island stays pretty much undiscovered by the mainstream tourist. But those who do decide to visit this place can not stop raving about it after.
Other than swimming and lazing around at the stunning beaches, you can explore and be fascinated by the local traditions and customs. There are a couple of guesthouses that will take care of all your needs and make sure you thoroughly enjoy your stay.
Being the ideal island for the cultivation of the famous Tahitian black pearl, Manihi is affectionately referred to as the Island of Pearls. The atoll is only 25 km square in its area and has a population of 650. It is located to the utmost north of the Tuamotu Archipelago. Getting here is also pretty easy, as Air Tahiti has regular flights directed here.
The main attractions of this small coral island are its serene white sand beaches and gorgeous black pearl farms. There are not many water sports and activities to do here, but the night sky from this place is well worth the effort to stop here when visiting the Tuamotu islands. Unless you plan to buy one of the famous black pearls, you will not be breaking the bank staying over at this magical place.
Interesting fact: The neighboring Cook Islands also have an Island of Black Pearls, where these jewels are cultivated. And with almost the same name, Manihiki.
Looking for Tuamotu Islands to visit that make you forget all your worries? Head over to Mataiva – a lovely little atoll about 79 km west of Rangiroa. Accessible by regular Air Tahiti flights, getting here is pretty easy.
The beaches at Mataiva are exceptionally beautiful, with some gorgeous white coral sand and turquoise water lapping at your feet. Hang out here to swim, sunbathe, or have a picnic in the long afternoon. You can also find groups to go kayaking or snorkeling with, or spend the day fishing.
An interesting attraction of this island is the famous archaeological site, Marae Papiro. Soak in the striking views and say a little prayer at the sacred coral platform while you are here.
Takapoto, also known as Oura, is an atoll located 10 km from Takaroa. It occupies 85 square km and houses 380 Tuamotuians. There are regular Air Tahiti flights to and from Takapoto, so you do not need to worry too much about how to get there.
The picturesque island is quite unique in the sense that it has no actual pass to allow the lagoon and ocean to meet. Perhaps this is the reason why it is not so frequented by tourists that are considering Tuamotu Islands to visit. Since the tourist traffic is so low here, there is not much infrastructure catering to the lone traveler that does end up here.
Lit up by the phytoplankton biomass, the shining turquoise shores of the Takapoto island are a sight to behold. The beaches themselves are also very idyllic, with white sand spread over as far as the eye can see. This is the perfect island to relax on when you need a break from everything.
Another pristine island in the Tuamotu group is Takaroa, a dream come true for any tourist looking for a quiet and serene place to let their hair down. It is only about 10 km from Takapoto, so if you are visiting one, you might just as well visit the other. You can easily book an Air Tahiti flight anytime to get directly to this island.
The 93 square kilometer paradise is inhabited by a total of 674 people, most of which are involved in pearl farming as a way to earn a living. In fact, the lagoon of Takaroa is one of the best places to harvest the black pearl!
The weather here is pretty consistent around the year, at about 30 degrees Celsius. To keep cool, you can swim in the pleasant waters, or go snorkeling to see the striking marine life in the lagoon.
Another namesake to the neighbor country, Pukapuka is part of the northern Cook Island archipelago, and at the same time one of the magnificent Tuamotu islands to visit.
French Polynesia’s Pukapuka is a small coral island, covering only about 5 square kilometers. Due to it being so arid and barren, it is not a very populous place and only has about 163 inhabitants. It is also not very frequented by tourists, and no Air Tahiti flights are directed here. There is, however, an airstrip for those who want to reach here via a twin-prop plane. The island is 182 km away from Fakahina.
Though small and isolated, Pukapuka makes for a lovely lovers’ retreat. Here, you can honeymoon with your partner uninterrupted by any other tourist. The beaches here are the perfect blend of beauty and seclusion, allowing new couples the privacy they need to build a new relationship.
Yes, you have to put incredible Anaa on your list of Tuamotu islands to visit!
In the northwest of the Tuamotu Archipelago, 377 km east of Tahiti, you will find the Anaa atoll. This atoll spans 56 square kilometers and is home to 494 Tuamotuians. Though there are no direct flights here by Air Tahiti, the island does have an airstrip to accommodate twin-prop planes. In addition to that, the famous Aranui 5 cruise also makes a stop here, making it a popular tourist destination.
The island consists of eleven small islets arranged in the shape of an oval. As you approach the island, you will easily recognize it by the shallow, bright emerald lagoon – the perfect place to laze around during hot summer afternoons. The views are especially breathtaking from Anaa – one simply cannot get enough of them.
Hikueru atoll is situated in the heart of Tuamotu Islands, about 22 km south of Takokota. It is a collection of Motus, with a total span of 79 square kilometers and a population of 179. There are no regular flights from Air Tahiti here, but an airstrip does exist for the convenience of locals and tourists alike.
The Hikueru lagoon is deep and full of coral heads. In the past, the island was a beautiful natural pearl oyster reserve. In fact, it was the very first place to create the fetching Tahitian black pearl! However, in 1903, a disastrous hurricane killed off much of the population and left the island in tatters.
Since then, however, the locals have worked hard to establish the island again. Hikueru is now once again becoming an important tourist destination with postcard-perfect views to offer.
Makemo does not get any regular Air Tahiti flights, but you can book a twin-prop plane to drop you off at its airstrip, and here is why you should make this extra effort.
For starters, this island is a mini paradise for any nature enthusiast. Though the island itself is only about 100 square km in area, Makemo has the third-largest lagoon among all of the Tuamotu Islands. Turquoise lagoons, white-sand beaches, swaying coconut trees – what is not to love about this tropical beauty?! Once you arrive here, you will never wish to leave the island.
Makemo is one of those rare Tuamotu islands that is still left unpolluted with the droves of tourists. The local population is 824 inhabitants, ready to welcome the cultured traveler who has a real eye for beautiful places. So, if you are hoping to avoid the tourist traffic but can only book your vacation during the busiest season, this is clearly one of the Tuamotu Islands to visit.
Because it does not get a lot of tourists, you do not get a lot of accommodations to choose between either. However, there are numerous cozy guest houses owned by the locals that will keep you comfortable during your trip.
Moving on, let’s talk about Fangatau – an often overlooked atoll in the Tuamotu Islands to visit. The 22 square kilometer paradise is home to 135 people. With no regular direct flights connecting the island to the rest of the world, visitor traffic is almost negligible. Those who do come by have to hire a plane to land on the small airstrip or arrive by boat. However, the lagoon is surrounded by reefs on every side and anchorage is not easy in this region.
Fangatu is 73 km from Fakahina atoll, another island in the Tuamotu group. Other than the winning beach and picture-perfect views, the atoll has little to offer the mainstream tourist.
Finally, we have Napuka atoll, another small coral atoll in the Disappointment Islands. The area is arid and human habitation is difficult – though the population has grown to 234 inhabitants in recent years. The nearest land is Fangatu atoll, about 170 km to the south.
Napuka, too, does not enjoy any regular direct flights and is one of the most isolated atolls in the entire French Polynesia without much tourism. It does have an airstrip though, and you can hire a small plane to fly you here.
In terms of attractions, Napuka has something that no other atoll does – the original vegetation of the Tuamotu Islands. So, if you are a nature enthusiast, this will remain on your list of Tuamotu Islands to visit.
All These Captivating Tuamotu Islands to Visit – Final Words
With that, let’s wrap up our discussion on Tuamotu Islands to visit. We hope this guide helped you single out the atolls you cannot leave out when making your itinerary, and that you enjoy your Tuamotu getaway to the fullest. Happy traveling!
If you are interested in more…
We have additional reading material for you: Our posts about 6 Captivating Marquesas Islands (French Polynesia) to Visit, the Cook Islands vs. French Polynesia, Tahiti Or Rarotonga, or Moorea Or Rarotonga.
And finally, also details about the world’s two most beautiful atolls: Bora Bora (French Polynesia) vs. Aitutaki (Cook Islands.)